Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 8, No. 4
December, 1930
BOOK REVIEWS

Page 444

THE RANGE CATTLE INDUSTRY; by Edward Everett Dale; University of Oklahoma Press, $4.00.

The cow country and the cowboy have furnished material for many books. Most of the novels in this field are interesting; some are even good interpretations of certain phases of ranch life. But the novelist has never yet been able to show what the cattle industry is. He never finds romance in that—probably never suspected it was there. Doubtless many people who read the fiction of the ranch life and its vicissitudes have wondered if there is any real cattle business—wondered if the cowboy just rides his cow pony looking for some chance to become a hero in a movie or possibly saves a stampeding herd from a high canyon wall and—marries the rancher's daughter.

Recently certain carefully trained historians have turned their attention to the cattle industry itself. This subject is technical and doubtless only the man who has experienced ranch life and at the same time has historical judgment will ever be able to write accurately and interestingly. The author of THE RANGE CATTLE INDUSTRY has all qualifications for writing the history of the ranch cattle industry. His work is pioneer in the field and should open the study to other students who are prepared to write on this subject matter, however, the amateur will do well to mature his training before attempting to spread his wings. There will be but few rivals for honors.

This volume briefly traces the cattle industry to the late sixties and then carries it in more detail from that point to the present day. It has long been known that Texas is a great cattle producing area but the economic study of why and how has been omitted by the average writer. The northern drives and their attending results are adequately treated. The northern drives helped to fill the northern plains and later the feed pens of the corn producing states with cattle. People of the eastern states could afford to buy beef now that millions of cattle were available. Standards of living were thereby affected.

The capital invested in the cattle industry came in many instances from the pockets of European financiers. The

Page 445

ultimate result of this was that many large ranches came to be owned by European syndicates. Moreover, the immense production of beef drove English and Scotch stock raisers to become alarmed at the importation of American beef. Even, one is told, that European standards of living were thereby affected. While many made huge profits others lost. The public generally heard of profits rather than losses.

The Government after the Civil War was greatly concerned with the Indian problem. The reservation system and cattle industry developed together. They were interdependent. The large acreage of the Indian Territory and public lands within the boundaries of Oklahoma developed large ranches. This cattle industry dependent upon grass and railroads had no little to do with the future development of the Indian Territory, Oklahoma and the Southwest generally—the Northwest too.

The ramifications of the range cattle industry affected, and were affected by, army posts, gold discoveries, Indians, Eastern and European capital, whims and fancies of individuals, the land policy of the Government, railroads, barb wire, and windmills—in short the cattle business was a fundamental part of Big Business.

Maps and illustrations in this publication tell as much as the printed page. They add much to value of the book. Statistics in the body of the text, as well as in footnotes, convey to the reader—without the usual bore of statistics—the steady rise of the industry until it reached the gigantic business that it was in the eighties then to suffer fluctuation for a period of years and eventually to attain a fair degree of stabilization.

The author closes with suggestions concerning the cattle industry of the future. The absolute need of scientific investigation and the application of business methods must govern the industry. The business of cattle raising is not yet void of romance but the heyday of the cowboy with the mongrel herds of Texas long horns has passed. It is now being stripped of hazards to investors—as much as any capitalistic enterprise can be. The "one family ranch" in the dry areas seems to be the solution for settling more consistently the land question that has so long troubled the "nester" and cattle men.

A review would not be complete without mention of the

Page 446

extensive bibliography. The carefully chosen sources listed in the bibliography speak for the amount of work the author has done to bring together the latest contribution on the range cattle industry.

The University of Oklahoma Press should be congratulated upon its securing this work for publication. Moreover, the Press should be congratulated on the book itself. It is well printed, beautifully illustrated and bound and should afford satisfaction to the book lover, the average reader, the student, scientific historian, and the modern cattle man.

M. L. WARDELL.

FRONTIER TRAILS: The Autobiography of Frank M. Canton; Edited by Edward Everett Dale; Houghton Mifflin Co. $3.00.

The autobiography of General Frank M. Canton well merits the name "Frontier Trails." One cannot imagine a better title. General Canton spent his life on the frontier. When life in one area became too tame he would move on to places where to live was an art especially if one were a peace officer.

The introductory paragraph of the author's foreword is one of the best summaries ever written:

"I have served more than fifty years as an officer on the Western frontier. My chief duty has been to protect the good citizens from the bad men who infested the border settlements in the early days. In this capacity I have worked from the Rio Grande to the Red River in Texas, and from there to the Yukon in Alaska. My experiences have included about everything in the line of outlaw fighting. I have had to deal with the Mexican Greaser, the Indian, and all classes of white criminals, such as train robbers, stage robbers, horse thieves, and cattle thieves."

General Canton was born in Virginia in 1849. When a child, his parents removed to Texas where Indians, cattle and broad plains constituted the landscape. Fort Worth was then a small town but the largest to which young Canton could go. From points near Fort Worth herds of cattle were collected for the northern drives across the Indian Territory to Kansas towns. With Burk Burnett, "then a young, lively cowboy," in charge of a herd, Canton, seventeen years old,

Page 447

and a few other men drove fifteen hundred head of cattle to Abilene. This experience was so interesting to young Canton that he joined another outfit driving cattle farther north—to North Platte, Nebraska. In the fall of 1870 he was back in Texas.

Within eight yearss (1878) life had become monotonous and Canton went to the Northwest—still a cowboy. Here in his travels he took occasion to visit the site of the Custer Massacre. Canton viewed the affair somewhat differently from most observers. He remarks "according to the Indian custom I would call it a fair fight." The prosaic historian may have cause to wonder about this.

Once in Wyoming Canton began his activities as field inspector for the Wyoming Stock Raisers Association. He soon learned that to live here in such a capacity demanded a clear head, steady nerves and the usual equipment which cattle thieves fear. In 1882 Johnson County, Wyoming, elected him sheriff. His position allowed no vacations. Bad Indians who would not stay on reservations gave excitement enough when cattle thieves hid out. Canton proved to be as good at managing Indians as in capturing cattle rustlers. His story of the "Johnson County War" is quite a different version from that found in other volumes. The publication of "Frontier Trails" is justified even by this one chapter. His part as a cattleman in this "war" was similar to that of other cattlemen. They were exonerated of all charges in the courts but came out of the episode "flat broke."

A brief try at business, in 1893, in Nebraska City, convinced Canton that town life was not his calling. The next year he went to Oklahoma. While the opening of Oklahoma brought thousands of good citizens, it also brought the usual quota of outlaws found on the frontier. For four or five years Canton as Deputy United States Marshal, with other peace officers, sought to make Oklahoma a safe place for banks, express trains, and good citizens.

The discovery of gold in Alaska created a paradise for outlaws and a demand for peace officers. The call of the North could not be resisted and Canton soon found himself in the coldest country where the hottest fights occurred. Here he met Rex Beach. They became great friends and their experiences made excellent material for some of Rex Beach's

Page 448

famous stories. Suffering from snow-blindness, Canton returned to the States—to Oklahoma.

The frontier had almost passed yet certain sections of Oklahoma afforded excitement and Canton was soon riding after the few outlaws as vigorously as ever. Statehood came. C. N. Haskell was elected Governor and seeking an Adjutant General, he chose General Canton. Here the fascinating autobiography ends. What might have been written after this date is a loss to history. Yet Oklahoma history is much richer with the relating of General Canton's life to this period. The Oklahoman who does not read "Frontier Trails" will miss a great story of a great builder of the State and Nation.

The story as a whole is well told. The critic will look in vain for spots where interest lags. There is no egotism; singly a thrilling life modestly portrayed. But with all this the book is the result of the careful work of the editor, Dr. Edward Everett Dale of the University of Oklahoma. To take five thick note books of penciled manuscript and put them into a typed copy ready for the publisher is a task which can be appreciated only by those who have had experience with such work. The editing of the original manuscript and preparing it for the public reflects the careful training of a literary historian.

READINGS IN OKLAHOMA HISTORY. Edward Everett Dale and Jesse Lee Rader. Row, Peterson and Company, Evanston, Illinois.

The remarkable richness of Oklahoma history is well set forth by the selections published in the present volume. One may wonder why accounts from the pen of Columbia and Cortes find space here. But the wondering ceases when it is realized that Spain laid down first principles in dealing with the problem of the Indian. More, these selections call attention to the fact that for over two centuries and a half before coming to present Oklahoma, the Five Civilized tribes, to say nothing of the Osage, Apache, and Comanche, had Spanish contacts.

For the later period the leading sources have been consulted both to show the historical currents surrounding Oklahoma and those which moved across the region. Thus we

Page 449

find excerpts from Vaca, Coronado, La Salle, the treaties of San Lorenzo and Louisiana Purchase Treaty, and illuminating accounts from the nineteenth century explorers: Pike, Nuttal, Irving, Latrobe, Marcy, and others.

In Chapters V-X a wide range of selections give a well balanced view of the various tribes of Oklahoma before and after their removal. The descriptions of Adair, Meigs, McKenny and others portray the Five Civilized Tribes in their original homes while the various treaties are set out to show the Cherokee Removal and other similar events. The situation in Oklahoma is well represented by, for example, a description of the Indian Territory in 1834 and the publication of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw constitutions. The Civil War period and the coming of the Plains Indians are accounted for by a significant body of documents.

Chapters XI-XV dealing with the white penetration into the state; the relation of the ranchmen to the Indian lands, the Boomers and the various Openings, the division of the territory into Oklahoma and Indian Territories present a remarkable group of papers. Among these are Dr. Dale's own resume of the Ranch Cattle Industry in Oklahoma; George Duffield's Diary, Indian Agents' reports, General Pope's Report, Biography of Captain Payne, The Organic Act, the Pawnee, Kickapoo, Wichita, Kiowa-Comanche agreements; Journal of the General Council of the Indian Territory, Laws of the Indians against the government throws light or by careful selection and well thought-out organization, the chief features of the period up to Statehood.

The history of Oklahoma since statehood is likewise characterized by documents which show that the authors are conscious of more than mere political events. Indeed, the whole cultural fabric of the state finds representation here. The Atoka agreement, the Curtis Act, the Enabling Act, and a political survey of Oklahoma to 1930 by the Tulsa Tribune are set off by contributions that illustrate the varied economic, social and educational development of Oklahoma. Agriculture, petroleum, natural gas, manufacturing, are considered individually with other developments while synthetic surveys appear in the governors' reports and in the Bell Telephone survey of the state in its Economic Survey. Materials of educational growth among the Indians, in the Missions, the

Page 450

public schools, and institutions of higher learning are dealt with in such a way as to reveal the rise of Education in Oklahoma and to present the basic documents in the history of that subject.

Surveyed as a whole the present volume exhibits noteworthy features. Chief among these is the publication here for the first time of rare and valuable materials. The Drinker Manuscript describes New Orleans in 1811; a series of claims of the Indians against the government throws light on Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama in the 1830's; the originals of Stand Watie and Boudinot illuminate local conditions and link Oklahoma with the old Southeast; the Journal of Alexander Posey gives valuable details of Oklahoma conditions in the early 1900's. These materials important in themselves are vastly more so in calling attention to the rare Manuscript Collection of the University of Oklahoma of which they are representative. Moreover, this excellent feature of the book is added to by collecting therein known materials widely scattered and difficult of access.

Finally, this volume must also be regarded as a source book for the study of the American Indian as well as local state history. Indeed, this predominating feature of the volume calls attention especially to the fact that no major study concerning American Indian history can be carried on without consulting collections in Oklahoma.

No one who boasts an interest in Southwestern history can afford to be without this study. The authors themselves are to be congratulated for this achievement, one requiring a profound understanding of Oklahoma history, great patience in collecting, and wisdom in organization. The chief criticism is that the book lacks an index, a defect that will be corrected, likely, in subsequent issues.

ALFRED B. THOMAS,
Department of History
University of Oklahoma

A TRAVELER IN INDIAN TERRITORY, THE JOURNAL OF ETHAN ALLEN HITCHCOCK.

Edited by Grant Foreman, $5.00.

During the decade between 1830 and 1840 about sixty thousand Indians from the Five Civilized Tribes were re-

Page 451

moved from east of the Mississippi to what is now Oklahoma. For their maintenance on the removal journey and a year after arrival at their destination contracts were made with individuals and companies. Charges of numerous frauds growing out of these contracts having reached the authorities at Washington, Major Ethan Allen Hitchcock was sent to investigate. From November 1841 to March 1842 he spent in this country visiting in the order named the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians.

In making official inquiries, being deeply interested in the Indians themselves, he recorded information and impressions received from and about, and observation made by him as to, the Indians and country, in a series of note books until he had filled nine diaries, which he took home with him. His official reports of corruption and fraud discovered by him were received by the authorities in Washington but never brought to the attention of Congress. These personal diaries after reposing for nearly ninety years among his private papers came to light two or three years ago through research made by Mr. Grant Foreman. The then owner of these papers, Mrs. W. A. Croffut, the niece of General Hitchcock's widow (he afterwards became a Major General of volunteers during the Civil War on the Union side), permitted Mr. Foreman to read and study them. Realizing the greatest importance of same as a part of the early history of Indian Territory and Oklahoma, he immediately sought and obtained permission from her for their publication.

Major Hitchcock reaching the village of Fort Smith on November 21, 1841, observed the construction of the second fort at that place. Two days later he entered the Cherokee Nation, traveling over the old military road from Fort Smith to Fort Gibson. Arriving on the 25th he lodged at a tavern called McDermot's Hotel for several days, meeting army officers at the post and making inquiries about the Indians. On the last day of November he arrived at Tahlequah, the Cherokee Council being in session. He described in an entertaining manner the appearance of the village, the prominent Cherokee people with whom he came in contact, the homes where he stayed, sessions of the Council and different committees thereof. The proceedings were conducted in an orderly business-like manner. After about ten days he returned

Page 452

to Fort Smith for important mail but was back at Tahlequah on December 19th.

From there he proceeded to the Cherokee settlements on Beattie's Prairie, at Spavinaw and the Grand Saline. After an absence of more than six weeks he was again at Fort Gibson, on January 16th. Later he visited the dense Creek settlements in the vicinity of what is now Eufaula, referring to same as North Fork Village, about which he devoted many pages in describing Creek customs, dances, ceremonials and traditions. Thence he proceeded through the Seminole settlements into the Chickasaw country. After visits on Blue River and at the village of Boggy Depot he traveled to Doaksville and Fort Towson. Day after day he recorded impressions of the country and people visited by him, describing their dress, their views as to their condition and surroundings, and their accounts of experiences on their removal journey and treatments received at the hands of the agents.

Mr. Foreman has edited this journal and appended 134 foot-notes and also added an appendix of 30 pages made up of a number of interesting letters written by Major Hitchcock from Indian Territory to the Secretary of War, in which some interesting and valuable information as to the country and Indians is given. There is also a map and index. The book is well made by the Torch Press, a publishing house that specializes in high-class historical publications. It is made of 100 per cent. rag paper, a book that will endure as a historical book should.

From Major Hitchcock, who was a grandson of General Ethan Allen of Ticonderoga fame, and an army officer of note and distinction and a man of letters and culture, we have his testimony as an eye witness as to affairs and conditions prevailing in Indian Territory in that early period.

There is a foreword by Dr. John R. Swanton of the Bureau of American Ethnology, our greatest authority on the Southern Indians. He concludes by saying: "The Hitchcock documents must henceforth be placed side of those by Bartram, Swan, and Hawkins among the original sources essential to an intelligent understanding of primitive (Creek) conditions. They yield to other authorities only in the one point of age. Mr. Foreman has therefore performed a ser-

Page 453

vice to ethnologists as well as to historians in giving this diary a publicity richly deserved and all too long delayed."

This is not the first essay toward the unfolding of Oklahoma history on the part of Mr. Foreman. In 1926 "Pioneer Days in the Early Southwest," published by Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland, Ohio; and in 1930 "Indians and Pioneers," by the Yale University Press, both of which have greatly contributed to the development of Oklahoma History, came to the public. Now we have this third book within a period of less than five years, which is published on his own financial account. The members of the Oklahoma Historical Society and those devoted to research in Oklahoma history are greatly indebted to Mr. Foreman for these efforts on his part.

R. L. WILLIAMS.

Return to top


Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site