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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 2, No. 4
December, 1924


Page 380

Horace Pope Jones, scout, interpreter and philosopher, was born at Jefferson City, Missouri, March 29, 1829. He was the son of Robert Harris and Maria (Ramsay) Jones. Robert Harris Jones was a native of Kentucky, born December 29, 1798. Of his antecedents and family history but little is known. At the age of thirty, he married Maria Ramsey, who was born at Jefferson City, Missouri, September 19, 1809. Her parents, Johnathan and Hannah (Lamkin) Ramsay had migrated to Missouri from Robertson County, Tennessee, both coming of pioneer stock. The father of Johnathan Ramsay, familiarly known as "Granddad" Ramsay, had been captured or stolen by the Indians while he was a small child and was reared among them, returning to live among the people of his own race only after he had grown to manhood. As was not infrequent in those days, the forebears of Horace Pope Jones had migrated in company with kinsfolk, so the family connections were numerous in Missouri and, socially, all were held in high esteem.

The boyhood of Horace P. Jones was spent at Jefferson City, where he received a fair English education in the public schools. As a boy, he was very fond of outdoor sports and excelled in hunting and fishing. When he was seventeen years old (in 1846), the family migrated to Texas, settling at the town of Jefferson, county seat of Marion County, in the northeastern part of the state. Of the story of his life during the ensuing ten years, no record seems to have been left but much of that may be left to conjecture, since he was a born hunter and always at home in the saddle and most of Texas was still a wilderness, teeming with wild life. That he drifted westward toward the buffalo country and came in contact with the Indians of several tribes, which were still ranging over the central, northern and western portions of Texas, seems probable. That he lived among them and associated with them until he learned to speak the language of the Comanches and to use the sign language which was so readily comprehended by the people of all of the tribes of that region is also likely.

In 1855, the Federal Government effected an arrangement with the state of Texas, whereby two small Indian reservations

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were established on the Brazos River. Of these, the one known as "the Lower Reserve" was located at the Forks of the Brazos, in Young County. Upon this Lower Reserve were gathered a number of small tribes and parts of tribes, including the Texas band of Caddoes, the Nadarkoes, Keechis, Waccoes, Towakonies, Absentee Shawnees and others. The other reservation, known as "the Upper Reserve," was located upon the Clear Fork of the Brazos, in Throckmorton County, and was occupied by the people of the Peneteka ("Honey-eater") band of the Comanche tribe, which was the only one of the Comanche bands that was at all tractable in those days. At the agency of the Upper Reserve, Horace P. Jones was employed as farmer, his work being to supervise and instruct the Indians in tilling the soil and caring for live stock. In his annual report for the year 1858, Matthew Leeper, agent for the Comanches of the Upper Reserve, makes the following statement:

"Notwithstanding all the difficulties and threatened dangers with which these people have been surrounded during the past year, they have cheerfully and quietly followed their agricultural pursuits and have apparently been satisfied to be confined to the narrow limits of the reserve. This, I apprehend, is the result of sound judgment and good sense on the part of the Indians more than any management or agency in my own. Those who are here are determined to follow a quiet, civil life and to follow, as far as possible, the good examples of white men. Their crop of corn, which was one of the best in the country, was cultivated principally by the labor of their own hands under the efficient instructions of their farmer, Mr. H. P. Jones, and will be amply sufficient to supply them with bread-stuffs during the ensuing year."

In his mastery of the Comanche language, Horace Jones completed his qualification for the part he was destined to play as a scout and interpreter, for it was really the court language of the tribes of the Southern Plains, being understood and spoken to a greater or less extent by some members of nearly all of the other tribes. But he became more than a mere interpreter, for he won the confidence and trust of the Peneteka Comanches to such an extent that he soon became their advisor and counselor and their oracle and mouthpiece. While living with them in Texas, he was formally adopted as a member of the Comanche tribe and he ever afteward justified their faith in him on every occasion wherein his knowledge of the white man’s tongue and the white man’s tricky ways made it possible.

As the result of the intrigues and machinations of a discharged Indian agent, the settlers of several neighboring frontier counties became very much inflamed against the Indians of

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these two reservations on the Brazos, in the latter part of 1858 and, in consequence, they were all removed to the Washita, in the western part of the Indian Territory, in August and September of the following year. Horace P. Jones was one of the white employes who accompanied the Indians to the new location, where the two agencies were consolidated and where he was retained as an employe. At the outbreak of the Civil War, practically all of the Indians who had been thus transferred to the Territory except the Peneteka Comanches and the Tonkawas, sought refuge in Kansas. Matthew Leeper who, as an agent, was let out in the consolidation of the two agencies, was subsequently appointed agent for the tribes thus settled on the Washita, in which position he was retained by the Confederate commissioner of Indian Affairs. The agency of these tribes was located near Fort Cobb, in the west-central part of Caddo County. Horace P. Jones was retained as an employe of the Washita Agency, serving as an interpreter.

That Horace Jones was not always on duty at the Washita Agency, during the interval between its establishment and the outbreak of the Civil War, is evident from the fact that he related to Hon. Dan W. Peery (one of the present directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society) the incidents of the recapture of Cynthia Ann Parker, in 1860, to which he was a personal witness. In this narrative, he stated that he was serving as an interpreter with the company of Texas Rangers under the command of Capt. L. S. ("Sul") Ross, by which the recapture was effected. Acting in this capacity, he was called upon to interrogate Cynthia Ann as to her identity, practically all knowledge or remembrance of her mother tongue having been effaced during the twenty-four years which had passed since she had been captured and carried away by the Comanches. She was frightened and very reticent, however, and little or no information could be elicted from her. Then several of the older men of the command began to discuss her possible identity. They mentioned the names of a number of white girls and young women who had been carried away into captivity from the frontier settlements by the Comanches during the course of the twelve of fifteen years preceding. Finally, one of them remarked that she might have been carried away in childhood at a much earlier date and then he mentioned the two Parker children, Cynthia Ann and John, who had been captured and carried away when Parker’s Fort

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was destroyed, in 1836. At the mention of her name, Cynthia Ann immediately became not only interested but animated and, tapping her breast with her finger, she exclaimed, "Me, Cynthia Ann! Me, Cynthia Ann!" Thereafter she talked more freely with Jones, telling him of her Comanche chieftain husband, Peta Nocona (i.e., "Lone Camper"), and of her two young sons who had escaped when she had been recaptured.

On the night of the destruction of the Washita Agency and the massacre of the Tonkawa Indians (October 23, 1862), Horace P. Jones narrowly escaped death. The story of this incident in his life is most effective when reproduced in his own words, as he related it many years afterward:

I was living at the Indian Agency, about four miles north of the Washita. There had been rumors that the Osages, who had taken sides with the Federal troops, were sending a large party down to attack the Tonkawa and kill all the white people at the Agency who sided with the Confederates. The agent, hearing these rumors, had left the country, taking his family to safe quarters, and had left me in charge. The Agency was right in the Caddo country and I thought I had some good friends among the members of that tribe who would warn me of the approach of a hostile party but, as things turned out, I found that I was mistaken.

The Caddoes, who were friends of the Osages, declared that our fears were without foundation but, should anything occur, I was to be told at once. I noticed that, for some time, the Caddoes had been holding secret meetings and would not allow any of the other Indians to attend their councils. The agent, thinking all danger was over, returned. The very night of his return, the Osages attacked us. I think they knew that he was coming back soon and had watched his return across the plains and had decided to make the attack as soon as he got home.

You know that I love a hound and one of the reasons is that my hounds saved my life that night. I and a friend were living in a log house of two rooms with a passage way between them. There was a store with two clerks in it, near by, and the agent’s home, where he lived with some of the employes. My friend and I were sitting over the fire, about nine o’clock that night, planning a cat hunt for the next day, and we were just preparing to go to bed, so as to be up early the next morning. Just then my dogs commenced to bark and, as several horses had been stolen from the Agency recently, I thought there might be thieves about. I therefore picked up my six-shooter and went outside to have a look around. The moon was not up. As I stood by the house, I heard something moving, out in front of me.

"Who is there?" I called. Then I heard the click of a number of rifles. I stooped down and could make out the forms of fifteen or twenty Indians making toward the house. They evidently supposed that I had spoken from the window. Had they known that I stood outside, I would not be here talking to you now.

"Well, I was pretty badly scared and did not know exactly what to do. I thought I would try to slip around to the door and warn my partner, but, before I could get to it, the Osages had arrived and were inside. I had a young mare lariatted out about a hundred yards from the house and I decided to try to get her, as I knew that, once upon her back, no Osage

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could catch me. I slipped up toward her. She had her head down, feeding, and did not notice me until I was within six feet of her, when she suddenly raised her head, gave a snort and ran away from me. The lariat snapped and away she went. I knew it was no use trying to catch her. While I was out by the mare, I heard shots in the house and I knew it was all over with my friend.

Doctor Sturm was at the Caddo camp, three miles away, and I decided to foot it up there and warn him. The Indians were now attacking the trader’s store and the agent’s house, so there was no use of my going there. It did not take me long to find Doctor Sturm. He would not believe me when I told him the Osages were attacking the Agency, as he had great faith in the Caddoes and believed that they would have warned him. Going up on a hill, I showed him the Agency buildings on fire and he soon had no more desire to tarry than I had. He had only one horse, so we decided to take turn about riding it and go and warn a man named Chandler, who lived twenty-five miles south, on a creek which is now known as Chandler Creek, about ten miles from the present site of Fort Sill. We had by no means an easy ride, as we had no saddle and the pony was far from fat, but, as long as we could save our scalps, we did not mind losing a little skin here and there.

We arrived at Chandler’s just as the sun was rising. He saw us coming and guessed what was up. His family soon gathered around and we held a council of war. It was decided to get some breakfast, pack some grub, strike out for Red River and cross into Texas. I took a little nap while preparations for the journey were being made. We all got a mount and, with our provisions tied on our saddles, journeyed toward the Red River as fast as we could go. Red River was about fifty miles south of Chandler’s and we reached it late that night. We rested a while and then went on to the settlements—fearful all the time that the Osages were close behind us.

We sent word to some troops that were camped not far away and they started up to drive back the Osages. I went with them. On our return to the Agency, we found our worst fears realized. All of the white men had been killed and horribly mutilated and the Tonkawas were almost wiped out of existence.

It seems that the Osages had divided themselves into three bands. One of these had attacked the store, another had attacked the agent’s house while the other had come to my house. After finishing up the whites, the three bands combined and attacked the Tonkawas. The Osages were well mounted and had plenty of ammunition, while the Tonkawas had very few guns, being armed chiefly with bows and arrows. The Tonkawas were camped along the Washita River and, as they were attacked by the Osages, they fled toward the Keechi Hills along a stream which has since been known as Tonkawa Creek. They made little or no resistance and were butchered and scalped as fast as they were overtaken, women and children as well as men. About eight hundred were massacred and the tribe was practically wiped out.

Not satisfied with this, what did the devils do but steal my hounds, and I had four nice puppies, too; but they cleaned out the whole lot. After doing all this mischief, the Osages fled northward, thinking the soldiers would be after them. So, while we were running south, the Osages were going north and I hope they were as badly scared as we were.

I found out from the Caddoes afterward that the Osages had visited the camp of a Caddo chief—the one who had promised to notify me of their coming—and had eaten dinner there about noon and afterward held a council at the same place. The Caddo told me that he tried to get a chance to notify me but failed. I do not believe him as the Caddoes were always the meanest and most treacherous Indians on the planet. The very evening of the massacre, one of these Indians was in my house and I believe now that he was there as a spy.

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The following letter, written nearly three months after the Tonkawa Massacre, tells of the plight of Horace Jones, for the destruction of the Washita Agency had left him without employment.

Sherman, Grayson County, Texas,
January 21st, 1863.

Dear Father:
I wrote you sometime in November last, giving you a particular account of the Indian Massacre at the Wichita Agency and my own narrow escape therefrom. I have been staying here, hoping that some measures would be taken to re-establish the Reserve, but everything has been in so much confusion that nothing has been done as yet. I have been continued as Comanche and Wichita Interperter but unless the Indians are settled again, there will be no appropriations and consequently no money to pay employes. I am now nearly out of money, in bad health and pretty low-spirited. If the Reserve is not re-established again, "Othello’s occupation is gone." I hope, however, that something will be done towards spring. I lost all I had at the Wichita Agency except my pistol and the clothes I had on. My Whole loss amounts to about eighteen hundred dollars. I shall start up to Fort Arbuckle in the morning in company with my friend, John Shirley, for the purpose of learning something about Indian matters. I do not exactly know when I shall be back here, but you must write to me at Sherman. I should have had an answer to my first letter long since. I would go and see you all if I had a good horse or mule. Give my love to all and write.

Your son,
H. P. Jones.

The period including the two and a half or three years following the date of the foregoing letter is one in which we have no record of the whereabouts and activities of Horace P. Jones but it may be surmised that he put in most of it as he had the preceding three months—waiting for something to turn up. What finally did turn up was the collapse of the Confederacy and the return of the Federal regime on the southwestern frontier. All that we know is that, when conditions finally became normal, a year or two after the end of the Civil War, Horace P. Jones appeared in the role of a civilian employe of the Army, as post scout and interpreter at Fort Arbuckle. Thenceforth, the story of his life is a part of the history of two military posts—Fort Arbuckle and Fort Sill. His marked personality, his quaint humor and his unvarying good faith with his fellow men were such as to give him a lasting place in the memories of officers and soldiers with whom he came in contact and in their affections as well. His rugged honesty and truthfulness is treasured among the traditions of Fort Sill and many of his sayings have become as proverbs.

To his dying day, Horace P. Jones never lost his love for sport. He was a skilled marksman with the rifle, an accomplish-

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ed horseman and was inseparable from his greyhounds and staghounds. Indeed, among his old-time friends, he was known no less as an ardent sportsman than as a scout and interpreter. While he excelled as a hunter of game animals, the flesh of which was needed or used for food, he was never more at home than when running panther, wolf or wildcat to bay. Habitually lighthearted and cheerful, he forgot the money loss sustained by himself at the time of the destruction of the Washita Agency, on the night of the Tonkawa Massacre, but he never ceased to mourn the loss of the hounds which he had to leave when he fled for his life upon that occasion.

Horace P. Jones enjoyed the implicit confidence of the Indians because, as he said, it was his inflexible rule to always tell them the absolute truth under whatever circumstances. In consequence of this, he was known among them as "the man who never tells a lie." Captain Richard T. Jacob, who, as a lieutenant of the 6th U. S. Infantry, was more or less intimately associated with Jones at Fort Arbuckle and Fort Sill, in the late ’sixties and early ’seventies, related an interesting instance in proof of this. Upon one occasion, several Comanche Indians had come to consult the post commander in regard to some matter. Phil McCusker, another interpreter, was acting as intermediary, though Horace Jones was present. Apparently, so far as either the army officers or Indians were aware, McCusker had completed the interpretation of a statement which had been made to the Indians, but Jones, who had been listening intently, bluntly said, "Tell it all, Mac," which McCusker proceeded to do with a degree of alacrity that was astonishing to both of the principals to the parley, who had apparently been led to regard his interpretation as already completed.

Although most of his life was spent beyond the confines of civilization, Horace Jones always managed to keep abreast of the times, for he was a great reader. Not only was he regarded as a man of superior intellect and intelligence, but his social standing was also a matter above question. At Fort Sill, as at all other regularly garrisoned military posts, the social lines were closely drawn, the commissioned officers forming an exclusive social class into which no enlisted man and but few civilians could gain entrance. Yet Horace P. Jones, civilian scout and interpreter, was always greeted and treated as a social equal by the officers of the garrison at Fort Sill.


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As Horace Jones never married, there was always more or less speculation among some of his associates as to whether or not there had been a romance in his early life. Some of them inclined to the presumption that there had been a love affair in his young manhood which had ended in disappointment and that he had deliberately sought solace therefrom in the solitudes of the wilderness. On the other hand there were others who knew him well and yet believed that he had turned his back upon the abodes of civilized men from sheer love of all that was wild. Whatever may have been the motive which prompted him to take such a course, such was his reticence that he never mentioned the matter to anyone and the secret, if such there was, was held in his own heart, untold until the end of life.

Unlike many white men who have become enamored of Indian life, Horace Jones never fell into the habit of imitating the Indian ways in his manner of dress—there were never any fringed buckskins or beaded hatbands in his sartorial make-up, for, in dress as well as in deportment, he was always a modest, well-bred white man. Indeed, he seemed to have an open aversion for the swaggering attempts at the picturesque which were so commonly affected by many of the border whites upon the frontier. His contempt for the putative bad man is still proverbial at Fort Sill. The late Fred S. Barde related one of these which is as follows:

Horace Jones was sitting quietly in his favorite place in front of the traders’ store, one day, when, with a whoop, a yell and a flourish of six-shooters, a vision of long hair, fringed buckskin shirt and broncho steed broke through the horizon. It swirled up in front of the store and the atmosphere was badly torn by the accompanying noise. It was truly "a bad man from Bitter Creek". It was evidently from the headwaters and the farther up the creek you go the worse they are. After the human whirlwind subsided somewhat, Horace Jones quietly asked where it was bound. With one of those hump-backed double-jointed oaths which are so familiar to stage-ranch bartenders and to readers of yellow-covered stories of "Alkali Ike, the Cyclone of Dead Man’s Gulch," it replied:

"I ain’t a-goin’ nowhere. I’m stayin’ right here."

With kindly patience, Horace Jones persisted: "But, Stranger, what direction will you go when you do start?"

With another expletive, the stranger remarked that he was likely to go in "any old direction."

Still presisting, Horace Jones asked: "What may you be called when you are at home?"

The stranger looked at him in wondering surprise. "Why, you must know me," he said. "You will know me when I tell you my name. I’m known from one end of the country to the other. I’m ’Whistling Buckshot’. "What may be your name?"

Having caught the spirit of the occasion, Horace Jones replied: "Of

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course you’ll know me when I tell you who I am. I’m known from the North Pole to the South Pole as ’the Unconfined pie-eater of the Plains.’"

"Whistling Buckshot" looked nonplussed for a moment and then, realizing that his hand had been called, soon made excuse and took up his journey in "any old direction".

Like many a man of real attainments, Horace Jones was distinguished because of his modesty. It was difficult and, indeed, well nigh impossible to induce him to talk about himself and his career. No word of any of the stirring incidents of which he had been a witness was ever volunteered nor would he permit himself to be interviewed concerning any of his own exploits and achievements. Only those whom he had known for years ever succeeded in inducing him, "bit by bit and word by word," to tell of some of the dramatic scenes in which he had been an actor.

As he grew older, Horace Jones came to be known as Colonel Jones and he was commonly so addressed by all of his friends, both military and civilian. He was carried on the payroll at the stipend of one hundred dollars per month. Although he was not extravagant, he was generous to a degree that made it impossible for him to save any money. Because of this, some of his friends induced him to take out an allotment and start a ranch, in 1883. This allotment was selected a couple of miles southwest of Signal Mountain and near the Fort Sill military reservation. In order to stock this ranch, some of his friends were asked to each donate a cow to start a herd. Needless to say, all of them were glad to do so. In addition to animals which were thus given by white ranchmen who had leases on the Comanche and Kiowa reservations, several of the Indians who had small herds of cattle gave a cow apiece, Quanah Parker giving two. W. G. Williams ("Caddo Bill") whose ranch was in the Wichita country, not only donated a cow but also gave a high-grade white-face bull. From that time on, the brand of Horace P. Jones was to be found upon some of the cattle that ran at large on the Comanche reservation.

Along about the end of the year 1884, the inspector general of the Department of the Missouri visited Fort Sill officially and investigated things generally. Without consulting anyone, he decided that Horace Jones was being paid too much money for the services rendered, so he cut his allowance in two, making his pay thereafter but fifty dollars per month. The old scout was deeply grieved, not alone on account of the reduction in salary


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but rather even more on account of the lack of appreciation of which the action was manifestly indicative. Six months later, because of the threatened outbreak of the Cheyennes, Lieutenant General Sheridan, then in command of the Army, came to Fort Reno. While he was there, several of the officers of the garrison of Fort Sill went to Fort Reno to pay their respects. Much to their surprise, after the exchange of greetings, General Sheridan asked:

"How is my old friend, Horace Jones?"

Now General Sheridan’s acquaintance with Horace P. Jones was practically limited to the few weeks of his sojourn at Camp Wichita (afterward named Fort Sill), in February, 1869, more than sixteen years before, and a brief, hasty visit in the autumn of 1874, yet he had not forgotten the scout. In reply to the General’s inquiry, he was told of the depression of spirit due to the cut in salary. The General was deeply interested and, turning instantly to an assistant adjutant general who was present, he directed that an order be issued at once restoring the salary of Horace P. Jones, scout and interpreter, to the full sum of one hundred dollars per month and allowing back pay for the difference during the period which had elapsed since the cut had been made. And so, the heart of the old scout was made glad when the news was carried back to Fort Sill that General Sheridan had not forgotten him, even in the hour of adversity.

As the years swept past and the infirmities due to advancing age began to make themselves manifest, the duties to be performed by the old time scout and interpreter decreased until they were but little more than nominal. But, despite the changes that came with time, Colonel Jones was still a part of Fort Sill. "First, Mount Scott; then Colonel Jones, then Fort Sill!" was the order in which visiting sightseers were advised to look at what was really worth while. Meanhile, the little bunch of cattle that had been branded and turned out on the range had been increasing. Sometimes the old man would express wonder as to whether or not the Indians had not killed and eaten them all—though no Indian would knowingly kill an animal with Horace Jones’ brand on it. After he became too feeble to visit his ranch and look after his affairs, Mr. William H. Quinette, the veteran post trader at Fort Sill, performed such duties for him. Finally, because the old scout was worrying unduly about the matter, Mr.

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Quinette told him that he was going to settle the mater by selling his cattle. The man who was in charge of the ranch was told to round up all of the cattle bearing the HPJ brand and hold them together, which he did with the aid of a couple of young Indians. The herd was found to number slightly more than four hundred head. A buyer was found who took the entire herd, calves and all, at twenty-five dollars per head. The Colonel expressed amazement both at the size of the herd and the price received, for he found himself far wealthier than he had ever hoped to be.

The year 1901 not only brought the dawning of a new century but was also destined to see the end of the old order of things in the Comanche and Kiowa country, for the surplus lands of that great reservation were to be thrown open to homestead entry by white settlers. With the announcement of this impending change came also the rumor that a railway line was to be built across the Fort Sill military reservation. Living largely in reveries of the past and dreaming of the primitive wilderness as it was when he first knew it, Horace Jones announced that he did not want to live to see the steam locomotive and its trailing train come roaring into the station at Fort Sill. During the autumn of that year, after the country had been formally opened and the settlers had come to make their homes, the tracklayers were pushing southward from Anadarko toward Fort Sill and Lawton. Day after day, the old scout asked how near the railway was. And when he was told that it was at Apache, that it had reached Richards, etc., his quiet comment always was:

"I’ll beat it yet."

One day, his friend, Quinette, the post trader, took him out for a drive. They drove down to the new railroad station, which had just been erected and enclosed but which was not yet completed. The tracklayers had not arrived. Colonel Jones looked at the intruding structure regretfully. It was his last outing. He was not there when the first train arrived a few days later. Another old scout and palinsman had crossed the Great Divide.

The following tribute to the character and worth of Horace P. Jones appeared in the Army and Navy Register, of Washington, D. C., in its issue of January 11, 1902:

The older army officers will be interested and saddened by the belated news of the death, at Fort Sill, O.T., of Horace P. Jones, known to them familiarly and favorably as "Colonel" Jones. He died at that mili-

tary post on November 16, full of years, wealthy in the honors of a brave and useful life and with a career crowded with hazardous adventure which belongs to that passing eqoch of the wild Indian and the frontiersman. Jones was of that famous band of scouts and guides of which a few old men have survived, such as Buffalo Bill, who has gained wealth and fame, and Ben Clark, who still lives in the quiet of Fort Reno. Jones was the favorite and trusted guide and interpreter of such officers as Sheridan and Custer and had many perilous encounters in early days on the Plains. No one can fully estimate the value of the Army of such men as Jones, Cody and Clark. They did much to aid in the march of the pioneer and were important, if unknown and unnamed, contributors to the extension of pacific industry across our continent.

Jones was a thorough frontiersman. He knew little of the graces and the adornments of civilization and, from all accounts, took little store in anything which was not of his rugged and hazardous west. He was a well-read man to the extent of taking a keen enjoyment in the publications of the east, but he rarely trusted himself among the comforts of the great cities. He had no faith in the modern elevator, lest the "string" should break, and, when forced to stay at a public hotel, he preferred a room no higher than and near a tree, down which he could clamber in case of fire. He had many narrow escapes in his lifetime of contact with the untamed savage and went to his grave at last, highly respected and greatly admired, and was buried in the cemetery at Fort Sill with the military honors of a colonel.


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