W. H. Osburn
After getting home from Indiana we had scarcely gotten settled to work when Captain Payne informed us that he was arranging for another expedition and that he would be ready to start early in July and would count on us, as there were to be several families to go. We were delighted and commenced at once arranging to go and, as time passed, we heard frequently from Captain Payne, who assured us of a big crowd and certain success. Our enthusiasm was high and we were ready and on time. We arrived at South Haven, Kansas, near the Indian Territory line, to find a nice little camp awaiting the arrival of Payne, who was in Washington to prosecute our case as best he could before going in. While waiting for him we became acquainted with a family by the name of Hicks with whom a, niece of Mr. Hicks was visiting. Her name was Icy Dixon and she had fallen in love with a young Boomer and was also badly affected with the Oklahoma fever. She was anxious to join the colony and make the trip and made application for a place to ride with her effects. As it seemed that my wife and daughter were the only members of the fair sex in the crowd, such an arrangement was to our liking.
After a day or two of waiting for Captain Payne, he arrived and we moved to Rock Falls, on the Chikaskia, where we found a more convenient camping place while awaiting developments at Washington. We were now in the Indian Territory where there was some game and plenty of fish. One day, we were dragging a deep hole just above camp and caught one very large fish and, after going to camp, Captain Payne ran a string through its gills and held it up at the side of Edna, who was known as the Boomer baby, and when held high enough to clear the ground it was four inches higher than she was. Edna was between three and four years old. It was some fish and it made a good supper for twenty-five persons.
News from Washington was slow coming and not very encouraging and, as August had now come in sight, Payne
gave the command to break camp and start for the Canadian. We had so and traveled leisurely down the Payne Trail until we came to the Deep Fork the crossing of which was on the corner of the claim I had taken on a trip before this and I suggested they allow us to stop at home and go to work. They all agreed but insisted on staying until we had a house to live in. Everybody pitched in and, in three days, our mansion 16x16 was ready for occupancy. The fourth day, Captain Payne with the rest of the camp went to the North Canadian and we were lonesome but contented in our new home.
Our contentment was of short duration, On the ninth day we saw soldiers coming up the valley and made our plans ready for them. They immediately informed us that the rest of their Company had Payne and his men on the North Canadian where they were awaiting our arrival and for us to consider ourselves under arrest. They ordered us to get our team ready and load our effects ready for the trip. Then came our turn and we told the officer in charge that we had taken our squatters right on the Public Domain and did not want to be modested, neither did we intend to leave until overpowered and forced to go. This, course of procedure was given us by Captain Payne and we intended to try it out. While the officer was very genteel he continued to argue the case, then threatened, then persuaded and all to no avail. He finally started off saying he would report us to headquarters and we would move if it took the whole army to effect it. We replied that it would take enough of it to overpower us and take us out by force. He then asked us if that was final and, when assured it was, he ordered two of his men to get the ponies and hitch to the wagon. That being done he ordered us to load up if we wanted to take anything along. We said we did not want to go or take anything away. The next order was for his men to load everything into the wagon and when that was done there was nothing for us to do but go. They were going to drive the team away. We simply asked him to leave the team, that we were not going and would need it. The next order was to tie the man. I had all the fun I could but six negro soldiers were too much for me and, as soon as I was tied and loaded, Mrs. Osburn, Edna and Miss Dixon were led out and placed in the wagon and we were
on our way to Payne's camp on the Canadian. Arriving about an hour before sundown, we were greeted by those already there. Our experience was told and it was decided to follow the same plan for the next morning.
About 9 o'clock camp was broken and all ordered to get ready and fall into line for the trip to Ft. Reno some 30 miles up the Canadian but there was no falling in. Captain Carrol, who was in command, pleaded with Payne to have his colonists move out without trouble. Payne explained to him that he had been coming for years to get the rights of his colonists as settlers on Public Lands. The Government had failed to give him a hearing in the courts and we had decided to press the matter a little further and were not going until forced to do so. The Captain then said he knew nothing about the controversy between Payne and the Government; that his orders were to expel all persons found in the Territory and, as there was but twenty-one of us—men, women and children, he thought he could do it without trouble. He ordered his men to get our teams and belongings ready and proceed at once to put the colonists in readiness, to march. When the teams and belongings were ready, the fun commenced. Luckily, everything went off in good humor. The colonists did all they could to stay and it took a while for the soldiers to get organized so as to tie and get us up the hill. About the funniest thing that happened was the sight of Captain Payne going up the hill on the back of a soldier with a leg on either side of his neck and a soldier on each side to keep them balanced.
When all were up Captain Payne said to us that he was going to tell Captain Carrol that we all considered ourselves under arrest and he would have no further trouble with any of us. So we were all untied and ordered to follow, either to walk or ride in our several wagons. By this time the day was half gone and we only marched six or eight miles until we went into camp for the day and night. It was a surprise to all of us how little time we were on the road each day while under arrest. Next morning we started about ten o'clock and traveled until 3:00 P. M. The day following that we were assigned our quarters in Ft. Reno, with rations issued regularly. Here we were under strict orders with few privileges. At this time Edna, the baby Boomer, got quite sick and we
were very uneasy about her welfare. The soldiers made good every opportunity to see what they could do for her. After ten days had passed, Captain Payne made all the trouble he could, informing the officers they had held us the limit without a trial. Each day he was told no orders had been received as to what disposition to make of us. I remember one morning when the commanding officer gave him that information he replied, "If you will read the constitution of our free country you will know at once what to do. It is plain that no one is to be held more than ten days without trial, and now that the time is up, all you have to do is release us."
He said, "If trial is what you want we will be on the road to Ft. Smith shortly."
Payne then told him in no uncertain language that was all he had contended for all these years and he knew they dared not meet him in the courts. He wanted to be going so he could get home and arrange for another job and a bigger raid the next time. About three days after this conversation, we received order to be ready to leave for Ft. Smith via Ft. Sill Indian Territory, Henrietta, Texas, Texarkana and Little Rock, Arkansas. We were all loaded into four Government wagons, with our belongings except our horses and wagons and started on the trip. The baby was still very sick and we feared we would never reach our destination with her alive, Captain Payne, George Goodrich, A. C. McCord, W. H. Miller, Ed. Hatfield, A. P. and Everett Lewis, I. C. Anderson, J. D. Brinkman, I. S. Bailey, Geo. Mack, J. Beal, G. W. Stanback, A. P. Corley and Icy Dixon and every soldier were constantly inquiring if they could lend a helping hand for her comfort. The weather was very warm and the water, as a rule was very poor, so that made it hard to care for her. When we reached Fort Sill, the Indians saw her condition and offered sympathy and soon returned with their medicine man. He examined her and said, "Papoose heap sick. Watch close or you dig hole put her in." He then took a piece of root out of his pocket and gave it to her.
Then we moved on. Our driver would get very tired during the day and I had taken pleasure in driving for him and hour or so each day and when we came to Red River he said, "You drive across for me. I'm sure afraid of quicksand." The officer in charge had ordered us all off to wade
through excepting Payne who was with the staff most of the time. I had very readily consented to drive and as we were the last wagon to go in I told the men to catch wagons if they could and all catch mine who failed to get on sooner, Our driver had trouble purposely and was far behind when the other wagons started across. The officer came riding back to see what the trouble was, which gave all the men but six a chance to get on. The rest of us waited until our wagon came along. By that time the officer was well nigh half way across. I slipped into the saddle, all piled on and we follow ed. When about three-fourths the way across, the wagon just ahead stuck in the sand. I watched the eddy, pulled above and passed in good shape. Soon as we came near the outgoing we saw the officer coming back and it would have done you good to see that driver getting ready to get in the saddle. I slipped out and onto the off mule and the driver was well set when we met the officer and I with all the others were walking. We were in camp a short distance on when here came the officer and ordered our driver to unload and go back to help unload the wagon in the sand but there was no special rush made and in the nick of time out came the swamped wagon. That driver's face changed as much in a minute as the moon in a quarter.
We arrived at Henrietta, eighteen miles farther, the next day, camped over night and was loaded on a train next morning for Texarkana, Arkansas, where we were put in charge of a lieutenant with six soldiers, the rest of them returning to Ft. Reno. Before these soldiers started back to Fort Reno, they came to see us, bringing candy and saying goodbye to the baby.
Everything being in readiness, we started about 10:30 A. M. We thought the baby a little better. Upon arrival at Texarkana, I was allowed to take the ladies to a hotel and return to the station for the night. Captain Payne was allowed to go to a hotel. We passed the night in the railroad depot with the guards on their beats until 3:00 A. M. when the last one sat down and was soon sound asleep. We gathered up their guns and thought to throw them in a pool, just back of the building, but finally concluded that it would bring trouble for the guards and do us no good. We there-
fore replaced them and took a stroll up town, instead. As all were still asleep on our return, no harm was done.
At 8:30 A M., we were on our way to Little Rock, Arkansas, where we stopped over one hour. It was the custom of the lieutenant in command to come through the train with the conductor the first time after a new one came on and point out his prisoners. On our way from Little Rock to Ft. Smith, a change of conductors was made without his notice and, of course, when he came to us he expected us to pay our way. As it happened, Mr. A. P. Lewis and his son Everett were the first in his collection. They were both dozing. The conductor, shaking Mr. Lewis, demanded his ticket; the latter, looking up very much surprised, answered: "I have no ticket". "Well your money." "I have no money." Shaking the son, he demanded his ticket and asked Mr. Lewis where he was going. "I don't know" was his reply. By this time the whole coach was laughing.
"Young man where is your ticket," said the conductor.
"I have no ticket."
"I have no money."
Everyone was just ready to roar. The conductor jerked the rope to stop the train, pulling his man and commanding the son to come on. By this time we were all in line intending to get off if any did but just as the conductor was putting Mr. Lewis off the lieutenant arrived.
"Hold on there! Those are my prisoners," and we were all ordered back to seats. The conductor and lieutenant engaged in some very complimentary talk but not just the kind that looks well in print.
Supposing the fun was all over we all became normal not knowing the treat to follow. Within the next half hour, at a station quite a lot of passengers came in and all but one lady found seats before getting to us prisoners. She finding an empty seat in our midst, sat down. The conductor came along and evidently thought she was a stranger but had not the nerve to ask her for her ticket. He went to the door turned around, looked at her a moment and started back but before reaching her his courage failed him again and, turning around passed out of the car. Presently he returned. All eyes on him he walked along, watching her every step, but
he passed by until near the other door, when one of the men, who had enjoyed the whole affair, suggested to him that he had missed one lady. Whereupon, he returned and asked the lady for her ticket and, to his surprise and to the delight of many, he received a very innocent look with the information she had no ticket. He ventured to ask for her money and she informed him she had no money. Everybody was in convulsions and I dare to say that conductor's photograph at that moment would have been worth a fortune to a movie. He looked at the man who had called his attention to her in a way as to say, "You tricked me." In a minute he ventured to ask where she was going. She answered that she wanted to go to the second station. He then informed her that he would put her off at the next station. When the whistle blew he came along taking her by the arm to escort her to the platform. She asked how much it was and being told it was forty cents she told him she would pay the rest of the way if he would let her go on. He persisted. He must have pay for the entire trip or he would put her off. She said that, if he could change a dollar bill, she guessed she could pay him. He told her he thought he could, as he generally carried a little change, and so he counted it out while she produced her dollar and returned to her seat.
When we arrived at Fort Smith, it was pouring down rain. We were escorted to a four-horse bus awaiting us. The load was heavy and the street bad but we went "pell mell" through it all until we reached the old jail, where we were quartered for the night. I finally gave up getting a permit to take the ladies to a hotel and told the guard I was going anyway. He turned his back and walked away and we went to a nice place and I returned to jail. Next morning Edna, the baby, was a little better.
During the forenoon we were escorted to the court room and introduced to the judge of the U. S. Court and asked one by one to give our reasons for invading the Indian Country and if we were not aware of the fact that to do so made us law breakers and subject to punishment.
Having been well coached by Captain Payne our responses were practically the same, in some instances verbatim. It may be of interest to those who are now living on these
lands and the generations to follow to know our answer so I give it as follows.
"To your Honor I will readily confess that I am well aware of the crime and penalty for any one trespassing on the Indian lands. But as to invading the Indian Country I steadfastly deny that. I was on Government land known as Oklahoma in the midst of the Indian Territory but not part of it. This land being subject to settlement, I was there as a squatter's right, molesting no one, trying to make a home, when the United States soldiers arrested me and forced me to leave and I am here, not only willing but anxious, to answer for anything I have done.
To some of us the question was then put as to whether we were not aware that there was a difference of opinion as to the status of the land in question. To this, we answered that we were aware that some held that it was Indian land, but that, so far as we were concerned, we were confident that it was Government Land, subject to settlement by her citizens. We were here to prove to his Honor that we were correct if given a chance. At the conclusion of this hearing we were told to appear at a certain time to give evidence of our case and we were given our freedom with all our belongings except our teams and wagons, which had been left at Fort Reno. When the last one had said his piece, the Judge turned to Captain Payne and said, "Pretty good schooling!"
So, there we were, without any conveyance to get anywhere and practically without money! However we were soon in our tents nicely located until something could be done. Some of us proposed to get out and find work until we could get away but they said "No" to my going that I must care for my sick child and they would divide with me. I have never forgotten. It will be remembered through the millions of years in Eternity. Those friends in need were friends indeed.
Captain Payne went at once to negotiate for passes to Wichita, Kansas and, in several days secured them over the Gould System, the nearest point being Mountainburg. The working boys had accumulated sufficient money to hire two men with their teams to haul us across country so the next we loaded and started for Mountainburg, a distance of some miles.
Edna had improved somewhat by this time so we had a photo taken before leaving and it shows that she was not very robust yet. We traveled over all kinds of roads and were out two nights, before reaching the railroad the last night, just above the station on top of the mountain. The family near where we camped was very kind to us, giving the ladies a good room and bed for their comfort without money or price and asked all in to spend the evening. While a number of us were enjoying their hospitality, a boy, some sixteen years of age, came walking in and addressing the crowd asked if any of us knew the man that had built the railroad. On being informed that none of us was personally acquainted with him he stretched up full height and said he must be a very rich man for they called him "Gold".
The next morning we slipped down the mountain to the station most of the way with both hind wheels with a drag chain lock. Some places were so steep that it was really dangerous. Upon unloading we divided our belongings, billing each one to our separate homes. With Captain Payne in charge of the passes, we were soon happy on our way. However we had a lay over at Fort Scott, where Payne took another route, leaving W. H. Miller in charge of the passes for the rest of the trip.
The next day we arrived in Wichita, Kansas. Mr. E. H. Nugent, a resident there and a colonist, met us at the depot and took us to his home. Miss Dixon having gone to her Uncle's at South Haven, where we had found her.
Within a few days, we received word that our teams and wagons would be delivered to us at Pond Creek, Indian Territory, at a certain date. Of course we were glad to get them and were there on time to find they had been waiting some three days while we had feared we might have to wait. Everything was in fairly good condition except there was one horse short, it having died in the time at the Fort. It was the property of H. Cochrin of Mulvane, Kansas. We tied his wagon behind mine and put his horse in the team and drove to Wichita where he met a neighbor who took him home.
Captain Payne had arrived ahead of us and we proceeded to fix up the colony books and arrange for another invasion, as we felt that we had made some considerable advancement this time. We arrived in Wichita, October 8th, having been gone since July 12th, on the third trip.
THE FOURTH TRIP
I felt I had lost as much time as I could afford until I made something for my family, but Captain Payne insisted I should stay right there in Wichita, keeping an open office every day and evening. So we arranged for Mrs. Osburn and Edna to visit in Indiana again, while I worked for Oklahoma After having Payne agree that the next invasion should be based on a determined stand, when once on the ground, similar to what was done the last effort, I was satisfied that I could mass a strong resistance on the Canadian, on that platform, and I went to work accordingly.
Well knowing that, if I could induce 500 people to actually participate in such a settlement, it would not only take days but weeks for the army to remove us, which would agitate the opening as it never had been, even if we did finally have to leave. Mr. Nugent and family were so enthusiastic they proposed to allow me to make their home mine. I had a delightful place for a home and their kindness will never be forgotten. All winter long, I attended the office from 6:30 to 9:30, giving all the help I could in the way of correspondence and information to those coming in; everything progressed nicely as colonists everywhere seemed in good spirits and getting ready to go whenever the time came. Captain Payne made the office one or more calls each day to advise and see after his personal affairs.
For a long time, Payne had expected me to act as his private secretary as well as secretary for the Colony. In case he was out of town or was not in during the day to dictate his private affairs, I always attended to it in the evening as best I could, knowing it would have his O. K. Calvert, Miller, Goodrich, Stafford, Brophy and C. P Wickmiller, now known as the pioneer druggist at Kingfisher, were callers at the office and, quite frequently, the old Boomers came to consult in regard to the Colony movement. "Wick," as I always called him, was a poor boy at that time. I think he came for company as we always enjoyed each other's society and he would tell me of his love affairs and finally made it known that he would like to go to Oklahoma on the coming invasion if he could arrange for his transportation and his baggage. He could walk if necessary. Later, he proposed taking a photographer's outfit and acting as Colony photographer. I
then told him I thought I could arrange for the transportation of his outfit and belongings and no doubt he could ride with some one all that he wanted. You should have seen his eyes "bug" and his countenance change.
The first time Captain Payne was in I told him of the arrangement and he was delighted with the prospect of having a photographer along. We soon had arrangements made for the conveyance of the outfit and, the first time "Wick" was in after the plans were completed, I told him we had made the necessary arrangements for him to accompany us. He said "Good, Osburn I give you half interest in all the work I do on the trip and we will make some money out of it." I thought "Good!" too, for I needed it as badly as he did.
We just thought everybody would want pictures, as they were to be taken along the course of possibly the biggest expedition ever made for the opening of Oklahoma, and they were good pictures, too. I think that every family in Oklahoma to-day would want a set of them. I prize mine very highly. "Wick" has made lots of money but he tells me it has been from other sources. We have always been friends, kept in touch with each other and as he visited me I am arranging to pay him back by taking my whole family and visiting him.
Old "Time," then as now, brought things around and he came with the opportunity to start on our trip. Wagon after wagon passed through Wichita, for days, to reach the border at Hunnewell, where we were to meet and go into Oklahoma in a body.
Word came to the office of the many who were preparing to go when Payne and the Wichita colonists were ready. We started for Hunnewell, Payne, "Wick," the photographer, and all. On arriving at the border we found a creditable crowd and pushed right in over the Payne trail, a jolly crowd.
Camping and hunting were especially interesting. Here, our photographer made his first picture, "Captain Payne Crossing the Line Going to Oklahoma." On down the Payne trail we went without any special event until we came to the Deep Fork on the corner of my claim where I with my family had been torn away from our home the summer before. Wickmiller made another picture, entitled "Bridging the Deep Fork." There had been considerable snow all the way until
to-day it was only in spots, as shown in the picture "Crossing from the Deep Fork to the Canadian." We were soon in camp on the Canadian and, while there, we christened it "Camp Alice" in honor of a little girl in the company. She is shown plainly in our midst in the picture at the crossing of the Deep Fork. As well as I can remember she was about twelve years old and a very pretty child.
The next day the soldiers came, going directly to Payne's tent and ordering him to consider himself under arrest, to which he consented, along with the others that were looked upon as leaders, except myself as colony secretary. We had pitched our headquarters some distance apart from the rest of the camp, presumably to be in position to be of help to the colonists when the soldiers arrived, which we had expected at any time. They came directly to my tent and gave me the same order, which I resented most emphatically, saying to them, "Not until the last man is overpowered and carried out." I supposed I was just strengthening Payne's position. Then the officer asked what I thought I could do as Payne and his staff was under arrest. By that time fifty or sixty of the boys were there, viewing the situation, some of them venturing to say in no uncertain terms, "Stick him out Osburn we are with you."
When, I was asked to surrender the second time I said "No" still thinking the report of Payne's arrest was farfetched to bluff me. At this the officer turned away saying, "We will get you." I answered, "We will have our fun first." I think there were but six of the first detail of soldiers and in twenty minutes there came a detail of twenty-five; as soon as they were spied by the boys they commenced surrounding my tent and, upon their arrival, they were told they could not get Osburn yet and we stood our grounds; some of us were Civil War Veterans.
When the lieutenant in command called over the crowd and asked for my surrender. The answer was "No." They left. This was about 11:00 A. M. The commander at once sent word through the camp that any one wanting to do so could go home without further molestation. About this time Wickmiller took a picture of the camp, entitling it "Camp Alice". By two P. M. half of the camp was gone or preparing to go and it was plain the end was near. Many came and
asked if I would think hard of them if they went, that if they stayed they probably would be under arrest for some days and it might be they would be escorted to Texas instead of Kansas. I told each one to do as he liked. I was there as their servant in any capacity I could serve best, that they need not stay on my account, that I was used to taking things as they came. Captain Payne came to me about that time and asked why I did not surrender when they first came for me. I said, "Why, Captain Payne, I could not do that after saying to every man that we would stand until the last man was overpowered. You know that the only consideration that I agreed to in Wichita, at work in trying to build up the Colony, was that we should make the same effort we did last summer."
"Now Osburn I am disappointed in you," said Payne. "I thought you had more confidence in my ability to manage the colony than to stand out after I had surrendered."
I said, "Captain, I did not know that you had surrendered and could not believe it when I heard it until several had told me and I saw some of the men pulling out. Had you come with that first command and said, 'Under the circumstances, I think we had better change our program, I would have been glad to act at your bidding'."
At this he turned and went away. Then the boys that were around near came and asked what I was going to do. "I am here to do just as I told you we would do when in Wichita that we would stay until the last one of us was tied and carried out, if that is your pleasure. But it is very evident from the situation that it is only a matter of time when they will be able to do that. Last evening and this morning I was so optimistic that I could see us holding our own indefinitely. I pictured sixty soldiers trying to tie 600 Boomers and carrying us up the hill like they had to do last summer, when it took the same squad three hours to get twenty-one of us up there. It would have given Oklahoma the greatest stir it ever had. But the bubble has bursted. And now we are to make the best of it. What is your pleasure?"
Someone suggested it better to surrender than to be overcome and then those that wanted to go straight home could do so and those that wanted to go under arrest could do that. I thought it a good suggestion and all agreed. Just at this
juncture we saw a detachment headed our way about forty strong. Some of the boys met them and told them that Osburn was ready to go and as they came near I stepped out and said, "No trouble this time, I am ready." No attention was paid to any of us but the lieutenant in command of the detachment ordered me tied hand and feet, which they proceeded to do and carried me to a guard tent where a soldier was left to guard me.
It was all over and, as I had a good bunk, I was soon asleep. Before lying down I said to the guard that I would give him no trouble and if he got tired and sleepy to just go in and rest and while he gave me no answer I could hear him —"damning." About 11:00 P. M., something of unusual interest occurred that seemed to arouse all. Both Boomers and soldiers were on their feet. As I came to the front of my tent the guard raised his gun and ordering me to halt which I had already done, said, "You stick your head out of that guard-room and I'll blow it off."
Morning came as it always does and all that remained in camp were asked which they wanted, to go home unmolested or be under arrest, except myself and Captain Payne and a few others who were considered leaders. Most chose to go in peace. But, when they came to the pioneer druggist of Kingfisher (Wickmiller), he very politely told them he had come down with the Colony and he preferred to stay with it.
In good soldier time we were on our road to Fort Reno. After a day or two there, we were on our way to the border at Caldwell, Kansas. We all enjoyed the trip and on the way a picture was taken, entitled "Payne's Last Camp" and another, as we passed into the state, entitled "Payne Crossing the Line Going Home." This and the one showing crossing the line going would certainly be an honor to every home in Oklahoma proper. I would be glad to see the group framed and hung in the hall of the Historical Society. No doubt Mr. C. P. Wickmiller of Kingfisher would take pleasure in furnishing them. In case such a move is made if so desired I will be glad to name and number many individuals.
Captain Payne and I had mingled in friendship all the way as though nothing had happened. But when we reached Wichita we went directly to the old Oklahoma office where I delivered the colony books and records together with Payne's
personal letters and data that I had while serving as his private secretary, thanked the few present for the honor of having served them as colony secretary so long, wished them success and bade them farewell. So ended my Boomer days with the Captain D. L. Payne Colony.
A CONNECTING LINK
In a day or two, many of my fast friends expressed opinions that we should organize a colony of our own. We set a date for one week ahead to give time for those not present that we thought would want to be with us to get ready. In the meantime, W. L. Couch came to me seeking to make a date for Payne and me to get together and have a talk to see if we could not fix up and work together again. I asked if Payne wanted the date. He said Payne had sent him. I consented and agreed to meet him the next evening at 7:30, at the hotel where we had usually made our headquarters on such special occasions. I was on time but no Payne. At 8:00 I stepped out, leaving word with the clerk of my going and, if called for, to say that I would be back shortly. On my return, I inquired if Captain Payne or others had inquired, but no one had been in during my absence. I waited until 9:30. No Payne, so I went home.
The time came for our meeting which resulted in the organizing of what was termed the Osburn Oklahoma Colony, with Osburn as president; E. A. Reiman, vice-president; C. P. Wickmiller, secretary, and E. H. Nugent treasurer. All present joined the colony, paying their $2.00. A committee was appointed to draft a constitution and by-laws and procure a seal. We, there and then laid our plans for work to open Oklahoma to settlement, not in raiding or invading with men but with petitions to Congress, to work for us, and adjourned to meet in one week.
The next time Captain Payne and I met on the sidewalk. He extended his hand, apologizing for being late at the hotel for our conference, explaining that he was away and his train was late getting in. Just as soon as he had arrived he came to the hotel and inquired for me and was told I had been there and gone and, as it was late, he went on.
We had a little talk referring to the organization of our colony which he designated as my colony. I assured him it was a colony for a different plan of operations from that with
which he had been working, that we would help him all we could and not lay a straw in their way. While he was invading the Oklahoma country with men, we would besiege Congress with petitions to open its lands to homestead settlement. He said "All right!" We shook hands and each went his way. I never saw Captain Payne again.
I might say that through the organization of the Osburn Oklahoma Colony, we succeeded in sending nearly 12,000 names as petitioners within the next two years. Next will follow the trip history of the settlement, on Monday, April 22, 1889.
THE SUCCESSFUL TRIP TO OKLAHOMA
Early in 1889, my colony members began urging me to make the race and assist them in locating their claims, which I consented to do. Having run the old survey lines along the Canadian, Deep Fork, Cottonwood, Ephriam, and Cimarron rivers, while with Payne, I knew the location of hundreds of them and could run the lines, readily reading and identifying the township, range, section and quarter, and all that was necessary for filing. I laid my plans to locate them in the lower Ephriam (Skeleton) and Cimarron valleys, as this was our best point to reach quickly. Arrangements were made to leave Burrton, Kansas, on April 17th. Thirty-two of us left about 11:00 A. M. My brother and I, traveled in a two-wheeled road cart, with two big wagons to haul extra feed and luggage; others on horseback and in light conveyances of speedy nature.
We camped for the first night in Sedgwick County. The second day was beautiful and we were within fifteen miles of the Territory Line. For the second night we camped in the valley of a little dry creek, which was so crooked we were in three sections. A threatening storm cloud was visible in the northwest and, before turning in for the night, I warned all to make their tents or other shelters secure as possible. We had one large tent sufficient for sheltering the whole crowd if necessary and in which it was convenient for fully half of the members of the party to lodge, ordinarily.
My brother and I were safely fixed in our quarters, under the wagon tongue, but were not very good to look at. So, threatening was the cloud that the boys became alarmed for our safety. They came for us to come to the big tent and,
as nothing else would do, we went. In a short time the storm was upon us in all its fury. The first wave gone and another in sight I warned them to drive the stakes deep, knowing by experience that, as the ground was wet, the stakes would be pulled out much more easily. Before this could be accomplished, however, the second downpour was upon us. All seemed safe when, suddenly, over went the tent, the guy rope stakes having pulled up. Command was given for every fellow to lie still, but someone on the stormy side felt the water coming in and raised up, thereby raising the edge of the tent, so that the wind got underneath and away went the tent, leaving us all to the mercy of the storm, so that in a short time every fellow was wet to the hide. As soon as the storm had passed we went to a barn some forty rods away to spend the remainder of the night. In stepping in at the door, instead of setting foot on the floor we stepped in water, almost knee-deep. Finding a ladder, however, we went into the mow where we found plenty of straw and some of us had a good rest during the remainder of the night.
Morning revealed the fact that the big tent was the only one completely demolished. We started in good time, with the sun shining in all of its glory, and found it good going. Striking the Payne Trail at Hunnewell, we went on to Rock Falls, where we overtook quite a number awaiting the fall in the river, so that they could cross, By night, a hundred or more were in camp and, by morning, the water had fallen some three feet, so they commenced fording before it was safe. We waited until after dinner and then crossed without the water running into our wagons.
The Salt Fork was but a short distance away—about five or six miles. Our horsemen rode ahead to reconnoiter and, returning, met us on top of the divide, saying: "We had better go in camp before driving among the thousands waiting, for the river to run down, so it can be crossed." I said we would drive down and see if it could be crossed that we had just as well go home as to wait until that vast crowd went first but we were halted, before we got within half a mile of the ford, and ordered to go into camp as the rest had done, with the statement that they were keeping the road open so all could have a fair show. I said "This is a public trail for people to travel on and I don't want to be molested."
I promised that, so far as my crowd was concerned, at sundown there would not a man be in the way. We drove on, coming to the bank, where I watched the current a little while, remembering Captain Payne's instructions, and came to the conclusion there were two short and narrow channels deep enough to swim our horses and that there was little danger.
By this time the trail was full as far as I could see and, with some sarcasm, the parties who had halted us asked how I expected to get back out of the way. I said "I guess I will have to cross over to turn around." I then asked my men to unload both wagons. In less than a minute the wagons were covered with men and were empty sooner than I had, expected. Someone then asked: "Osburn what next?" "Put one box on top of the other, tie them, both together, securely to the running-gear and then put loads in the top box," I answered.
While they were loading, I arranged with one of the horsemen to tie one end of a picket rope to his saddle and the other end to the end of my cart tongue. The team drawing the running-gears of the other wagon was put in the lead of the loaded wagon, with a rope from my wagon to the leaders' breast-straps and with instructions how to proceed. When all was ready, the horseman started. I waited until the rope was tight and he was across the first swim before my ponies struck in and then I was quickly out to hold the lead team up stream while they were swimming. The horseman was across the second deep water and ready to hold my ponies and I was soon out again to hold the leaders steady while they were in deep water again. We were across in less time than it takes to tell it, every man of our crowd across in high clover. Wagon loads were readjusted and we were on our way, at 4:30 p. m., and left the camp on the other side swarming like bees. We drove on the trail about two miles then took a cut off to be ahead in the morning. I told every man to put his harness and all where he could handle it in the dark and at a moment's warning. I put out sentries to guard camp and also to give warning of the first noise of wagons on the main trail. We turned in for a rest. At two A. M. I was aroused by the guard saying I hear wagons coming. I said "Waken every man and tell him to get ready to go just
as soon and as quietly as possible." Within a very short time we were on our way, striking the trail again in about three miles, well ahead of the crowd. At daylight we breakfasted and were still ahead. At noon we had dinner and, about 3:00 p.m., came to those who were ahead of us and who had started as much as two days before us. They had been stopped about half a mile before reaching the Oklahoma line. So we passed on to the line leaving the trail to the left and going into camp within three rods of the line on a little ravine. We had camped in the same place with Payne on a former trip, when we stopped a day and ran the section lines just to know positively where the trail entered Oklahoma. It was of special advantage at this time. The wire fence was supposed to be the line and the soldiers had stopped those at that place as they found them coming and brought out those who had gone in not knowing about the line.
We had a lovely camp well located to make the run. We bridged the little branch that let us go straight to our point coming into the trail just below camp. It was all down grade. Sunday morning came in all its beauty and soon wagons began driving down the trail into Oklahoma and some of the boys insisted we should be going, but I said no, that when we took our claim we wanted no litigation because of any charge that we were "Sooners." The Reverend Ashman, of the Newlight persuasion, I think, gave us a very timely address in the morning. Some of us took a stroll in the afternoon to a high hill, to the east of us a mile or more, which gave us a view for many miles up and down the line where we could see hundreds lined up ready for the race, the next day. Then, in the distance, we saw covered wagons coming north on a road east of the railroad and, directly, another on the Payne trail, all being escorted by soldiers back to the line. Presently we were sighted by the scouts and here came a soldier up the hill. On coming near he called out, "Hello Osburn I've been looking for you all day. Where is your camp?" I pointed it out to him saying, "Right on the line ready to run when you give us the word."
"That's good sense to stay outside. Lots of them thought to go on down ready to go to work at noon while others were coming. We have been collecting them for two days and are
just now escorting them out. Guess we will be kept busy to keep things clear right up to the time."
I asked, "How many of your company?"
"All of us, just four in this detail."
I said, "You boys had better come to our camp tonight."
"Well this makes the fourth time we have met up with you in this country. I guess we will just accept your invitation."
I said, "We will look for you. You will find us just below the Payne Trail, on that little branch."
Returning to camp we related our discoveries and told of the coming of the soldiers to stay at night. By this time the trail was full of wagons of those who had gone in early in the day being escorted back to the line, to the satisfaction of all who had remained outside. About 8:00 P. M., the soldiers came for a rest, having ridden hard all day. The boys had a good supper ready for them which they appreciated very much. They wanted to make an early start in the morning and at four, one came to my tent and said, "Are you sure you are north of the Oklahoma line?" I said "Yes on a trip with Captain Payne one time we hunted up the corner stones and run the lines to know just where it crossed the Trail."
"Guess you are all right then but we have orders to move every body north of the wire fence. So I order you back there and we will go on." I thanked him and they rode away. All morning soldiers came with those that had gone too far.
Twelve o'clock noon was the time for the signal to be given for the opening, the firing of guns along the line by soldiers. We had an early dinner and started exercising our horses at 11:00 A. M. Coming back to the line fifteen minutes before twelve, ready for the run, everybody tense. The signal was given and away we went across our little bridge down the valley to get into the trail some 500 feet ahead of the foremost already on it.
Everybody was for himself and in every conveivable kind of transportation—some riding on the railroad trains, some on horseback, others in wagons, buggies, buckboards, spring wagons, ox carts and push carts—everything except automobiles. Two buggies, five horsemen, and one spring wagon overtook and passed us, all to fall behind later on, except one buggy and two horsemen, none of which we saw again.
In one hour and twenty-five minutes, we had driven seventeen miles to our camp on the Ephraim Creek (Skeleton River) just above the railroad bridge, which the third train was crossing as we drove in. The train was literally covered with homeseekers. Here we found a man with his wife and three children and a cow with a young calf, who hailed us with the salutation, "You fellows rather slow ain't you? We been here nearly an hour."
Agreement had been made that when we came to a good claim I was to say, "Here is a claim for some one." The first man to say "I take it" got the claim.
My brother who had come simply for the fun proposed to care for the teams and camp so we would lose no time. On stopping I got out and said "Here is a claim for some one" and it was taken and on we went in under the railroad bridge and down the valley taking everything as we went. There was no opposition until we reached the Cimarron, where we met them coming from the east. Then I said our next best chance is on the uplands above our camp. On returning to camp we found our first man at odds with his neighbor whom I noticed making his improvements on another one quarter near by. I had no time then to settle disputes so said to them to go ahead, they were on different claims and would prove it to them before sundown and went on to locate the rest of the boys. This having been done, I asked how they were getting along. They said they were just waiting until I could convince them who was right. I said, "You put a red flag up on your improvements" and to my man, "You put up a white flag. Then come with me."
The flags up, I took them to the corner stone north, where we put a flag; then going south to the corner stone we could see clearly the line ran about equidistant between the two improvements which settled it beyond a doubt with both of them.
Giving each man a description of his claim and each one having done proof work we were ready to go to Guthrie, next morning, to the U. S. Land Office, to make their filings. We arrived there when Guthrie was about twenty-two hours old, with a city of tents estimated to have 15,000 inhabitants. My boys started in about the fifties in the line to file, reaching the office window just before noon. I learned afterward
that not one was ever contested or otherwise bothered about his claim.
While waiting on the filing I got into a conversation with a man driving a nice span of horses hitched to a nice buggy who said he had come just to see the run and when his train stopped he thought it a good place to observe the movement of things. He had taken his valise and run up the bank and sat down on it and watched the crowds until noon and thought to see if he could find something to eat. He got up and was looking around to see which way to go when two men drove along and said to him, "Mr., what will you take for your claim?" That was the first it entered his head that he had a claim. He said, "Oh! I hardly know."
One spoke up and said, "We will give you this rig for it."
He said, "It's a trade." They got out and he got in.
After spending most of the day and bidding the boys good bye, my brother and I started home, via Kingfisher and the Chisholm Trail, on the 27th. I had not returned until I met the surviving Boomers, at their reunion during the State Fair, of Oklahoma, in Oklahoma City, with my family in September, 1926. While I enjoyed meeting the Governor and many of its other officials, I failed to meet the children and, when I visit Oklahoma again, I want to meet its children, whether I get to see any others or not. I trust that the members of the Oklahoma Historical Society may find my account of some of the struggle which preceded its opening to settlement and that of the part which I had in the first permanent settlement worth reading. Some day, I hope to see Oklahoma once more and to meet its people again. They have a wonderful country and they have built a mighty state.
W. H. OSBURN